Saturday, May 08, 2010

Saturday 8th May - Qualifying day!

Got up nice and early again today, had a quick bite (breakfast today was creme caramel, usually intended as a pudding, but it went down a treat this morning!), then headed for the train. Had a good run up to Montmelo, then popped in past the bakers shop again to buy a sandwich and a bottle of water to keep us going at the track, then headed up.

We noticed on walking up that the pavements were pretty sodden. The forecast today was for rain, but however when we got up this morning the forecast had changed to being mostly cloudy, it was a beautiful morning in Barcelona, so suncream was packed in the bag today! While walking up we came across the shuttle transport that was available to take folk up to the track, I just had to stop and take a pic of the 'trainie'!

Once we got to the track and got to where we wanted to sit, will was pretty clear there had been a fair dump of rain over night, the grassy bank was already soft sludgy mud, and that was to be out seat for the day!

Never mind, we started to make our way down the bank (it was very slippy), and popped down our (plastic backed) travel rug, my new shoes were caked in mud, so I took them off and left them to dry in the sun. We then had the entertainment of watching other folk try to get down the hill, so many folk fell, and then couldn't get up again! Not good. The sun was fairly warm today, so as time went on the mud gradually dried out.

There was a great atmosphere again today, there was a group of Spanish boys sitting in front of us, one of which was the life and soul of the party! He was interacting with everyone sitting around him, even us, although we didn't understand a word he said. There was a mexican wave going at one point too, which was caught on camera by the helicopter, it was on the big TV screens, don't know if it would have made it to the tv screen at home though ; ) See below a pic Rich got of Alonso when he passed, you can see the fists in the air by the fans, they did this every time he passed and every time he came on the big screen!

The red bulls seemed untouchable today! Rain is forecast for tomorrow afternoon by the looks of it, and although that will make things messy for us again, it will make the race a bit more unpredictable... we will have to see what happens!

We were a bit tired once we got back to the hotel so it was room service tonight, although listening to Rich ordering it was funny, the girl at the other end of the phone couldn't understand what he was wanting, lol.

We are going to get up a bit earlier tomorrow to catch the earlier train... this will be our last early start on the holiday though, we wont need to get there so early in Monaco (which early forecasts are also indicating rain!) We are not sure what is going on, rain forecast in usually dry and sunny Spain and France and this ash cloud is following us too! Barcelona airport apparently closed this evening, madness!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Friday 7th May - Friday Practice at Circuit de Catalunya, Montmelo

We caught the 8.30 train and was in Montmelo the small village beside the circuit about 30 minutes later. The walk up to the circuit was a bit up hill but plesant, we just followed the crowds!

We walked round the track today. Although we just have a general admission tickets, on the Friday a general admission ticket also gets you in to the grandstands. It was great to be able to watch the cars from different points, and we took the oppertunity to sit in the pit straight in the afternoon watching all the prep in the garages and people watching! We spotted Ted Kravitz (the pit lane reporter) and Jake Humphrey (BBC presenter), and also saw a few of the drivers too. Alonso was the only one to wave up at the grandstands, but the majority of the supporters at Barcelona are understandably Alonso fans! It was a great atmosphere in the main stand, there were a couple of men a few rows in front of us who had bagpipes, so they had the crowd going, and they were greatly received.

We couldn't get the English commentary on our little radio, so it was a bit more difficult to know what was going on, we did see Button hit debris coming out the pitlane in the morning though, which damaged his car and he seemed to go backwards from there. So we are hoping for better things for him tomorrow! The red bulls seemed pretty immense, if things are dry this weekend it may be a very uneventful red bull 1-2, but the forecast is still for rain, which will make things a bit more interesting.

Nico Hulkenburg had a bit of an 'off' at the other side of the track which resulted in a red flag for 10 minutes or so, here is his car being recovered back to the garage, it all looks very sombre being covered in the black covers, his mechanics will now have a long night rebuilding the car, but thankfully he was not injured.

Jenson coming back to his garage after a run, he seemed to try a few different things this afternoon, but didn't seem to be make him go any faster!

We avoided the crowds leaving after the F1 practice by watching the GP2 qualifying, then headed back to the station, got back on the train in about 10 minutes and headed back to Barcelona, it was very easy although I am sure things will be a lot busier tomorrow!

The forecast for today was just about right, mostly cloudy. The forecast for tomorrow and Sunday is showers/rain, so we will go prepared with our rainy day attire and look forward to some unpredictable action!
Thursday 6th May - Barcelona sightseeing

Today was a free day GP wise, so after a long lie we headed out in to Barcelona. We walked to the train station and checked out where to go tomorrow and bought our train tickets, 15 euro for ten journeys to Montmelo, pretty good compared to Scottish transport prices! The platform we had to go to was not very clear, but we found out where to go and headed back to the hotel via the shops to get some provisions!

In the afternoon we headed up to the Montjuic area, a place we had visited before but would like to go back to, luckily it is not far from the hotel so was easy walking distance. We walked past the magic fountains and got our photo taken from the top of the steps beside the art gallery (I think), which gave great views of the city (see the bottom photo - they don't seem to be in the order I uploaded them!)

We then headed up the hill further and spent a bit of time exploring the olympic stadium then headed up to a view point over the sea. We planned to take the cable car to Barcelonetta, an area on the coast just past the world trade centre, but it was not running, so we walked down to the bottom and got some lunch at the marina. We then walked up La Ramblas before heading back to the hotel.

In the evening we walked round to the magic fountain to watch the display, it was very pretty, the water was 'dancing' to music and illuminated by different colours too, it was pretty effective as dark was coming in.

It was then time to get sorted for our early start the next day, alarm set for 7.15am!

The Magic fountain display

Walking up La Ramblas

Inside the Olympic Stadium (it is currently being refurbished as it is hosting the European Athletic Championships)

The two of us posing for a pic with Barcelona in the background

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Fiona's 30th birthday trip - Barcelona and Monaco Grand Prix 2010

The trip got off to a sticky start- a no fly zone was announced for Scottish airspace from 7am on Wed 5th May and our flight was due to leave Edinburgh at 6.35am. We thought that we would be lucky and we should manage to leave before the ban came in to effect. However, about 8.30pm on Tuesday we got a text message from BA informing us that our flight from Edinburgh to London was cancelled! The BA help lines were closed for the night and we were unsure what to do next, try and make our own way to London and hope BA would sort us out from there (there was no way we would get down to London in time for our 9.10 flight to Barcelona), or stay put and phone BA the following morning.

After about half an hour researching options we decided we would have more chance of getting to Barcelona if we went down to London on our own steam, so we decided to book the train from Waverly at 5.50am which would get us in to Kings Cross for 10.10am. It would be fairly easy from there to get to Heathrow from which we hoped we would be able to get a flight out.

We went to bed for a couple of hours then set off for Edinburgh at about 2.15am, we had a great run down and got the car dropped off. The official word at the airport was that all flights were currently cancelled apart from a couple of Air France flights, but they were not guaranteed to depart. We jumped in a taxi to the station and collected our tickets from the machine and got on the train.

The train journey was very quick! There was also wifi available which was a new experience for us on a train! After the phone lines at BA opened we phoned up to explain our situation and to see what could be done... the lady was very helpful and booked us on the an afternoon flight to Barcelona - excellent!

Later in the journey Rich got another phonecall... this time from Mclaren Mercedes asking if we were still interested in getting a behind the scenes paddock tour in Monaco (it was a free draw that Rich entered a few weeks ago), so on Friday of the Monaco GP at 2pm we have to meet at the entrance to the pit lane for our tour!

We headed down to the gate for boarding and we first noticed Jock Clear who is a race engineer for Nico Rosberg (he was the engineer for Rubens last year) at Mercedes, there were quite a few Mercedes staff, all very obvious in their Henri LLoyd attire! We jumped on the bus to get to the plane and in the last group of folk to get on was Jenson Button! I was a bit unsure of what to do, ask for a photo or autograph or just leave him alone! We got on the plane, got seated and then Jenson walked past our seat, and was stood beside Rich for a minute whilst waiting for folk to get seated. He was talking to someone though, so best not to interrupt I thought...

A Henri LLoyd attired person was sitting next to me on the plane and it did not take long to get talking and it then turned out to be the quickest flight! It was so interesting to hear insight to the team, his name was Pez and he is a systems engineer and works with Nico's team. Although this was his job he cleared loves F1, and it was great to see that staff don't take it for granted what a great job they have! He has been taking a photo blog of the season so far and he showed us the photos on his iphone.

Soon it was time to land and Pez told us to ask for him when we get the paddock tour in Monaco, and I think we will do that for sure if we get the chance, even if just to thank him again for chatting to us and get a photo together.

Next it was baggage collection time. Jenson was stood next to us waiting for his case to come off! This time I thought I could not let it pass! I apoligised for bothering him and asked it he would mind if we got our photo taken together, he immediatley agreed and Rich got the camera out. The photo came out very well thankfully and I congratulated him on becoming world champion and for his success this season so far and wished him all the best for the coming weekend. I have to admit I did stutter a bit, and my face was probably a shade of crimson thoughout but who cares!

Here is the photo!

He was very polite, laid back and after thanking him he went to look for his bags on the carrousel, just a normal person!

The trip from the airport was very uneventful in comparison to the rest of the day, we then checked in to the hotel and got settled in. Hotel room is nice and comfortable, we are right next to the placa'espana and about 15 minutes walk from the train station. Went to bed about 10pm, so had a long day. All the upheaval was definitely worth it though.